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My first breakdown.

Well, not my breakdown, but my first bus breakdown that has happened to me since I have been traveling. I have heard many dastardly stories about them from other travelers, but for me it has always been smooth sailing.

My first mistake was contemplating on taking the first bus to Lusaka the next morning. Getting up early and traveling at first light had started when I traveled with the couple in Mozambique. The temperature is very nice and the scenery takes on a more subtle appearance. When I went to check out the times of the buses I learned that the first left at 3 a.m. and the next at 9am or 10am. Man, that was a big difference. 3am is an insane time period any way you look at it. If your still up at 3am, you are definitely fully conscious or are under some sort of altered state ie. drugs or alcohol. Getting up at 3am just doesn’t correlate. Even getting up to go fishing or hunting doesn’t involve getting up at 3am. I was torn, and it showed when the touts were dropping the price on the bus to get me to buy a ticket. I was torn. I finally figured that I would shoot for the 3am, but if I woke up and couldn’t do it or didn’t wake up, then I would just take the later bus. I ended up the night staying up until around 1am as I just couldn’t sleep and I had spent some time at the bus station where all the bars and mingling was taking place as it was saturday night.

At 2am I woke up long enough to turn off the alarm clock and make the decision that I would get up to go for the 3am, but just after I lied down a bit and rested for another 20 minutes as I took the time to pack all my stuff up the prior night. Well, when I awoke up next it was 2:45am and I was in a panic. I quickly threw on my clothes, took down the mosquito net that I had used for the first time, and went to the bathroom for a quick splash of water and to brush my teeth. I also forced a dump even when I didn’t have to go, oh how that makes long bus rides that much easier, self control.

I rushed down to the bus terminal where there were three buses staged and ready to go. Guys swarmed me yelling at me to get on their bus. I was kind of in a daze so I jumped into the first bus and told the guy I was ready. He told me the price was $65,000K. I told him that the other day, the guy was going to sell it to me for $50. He countered at $55 and I stuck at $50. He caved. I won. I was happy as hell that it all worked out okay. That was until we sat for another hour as we waited for more passengers. Finally, we left. The ride was okay and the seat was pretty good, even after I learned that this wasn’t the express bus that went direct and took 6 hours, but the round about bus that hit the off villages and took 8 hours. Oh well, a rookie mistake, but it was okay as I would arrive in the capital city in the middle of the day. Then it happened, about two-thirds of the way to Lusaka. We hit a hills section and as we were climbing the hill, the motor started surging and finally conked out. The driver turned around and explained that we had run out of gas. For me, it was no big deal. I had patience and a 5 hour window before the sun went down after we will have arrived at the capital. Some of the other passengers were not so content and beraded the guy and his company for allowing something like this to happen. Everyone got out and sat under whatever shaded area they could find. I had seen scenes like that many a time, but have never had to partake in any shade taking. Again, not so bad.

One of the passengers was a local from the area and called one of his buddies to bring us some fuel. It wasn’t more than a half an hour before the mini-bus arrived with five big jugs of fuel. They filled up and we were off. We made it about five kilometers before the same thing happened. Now, even my head dropped a few notches. They worked on pumping up the injectors manually and were able to fire it up. We went another five when it conked out again. This wasn’t a lack of fuel problem, rather a lack of fueling. They would manually pump up the injectors and we could go for a bit before the injectors would run dry and we would limp to a stop. This went on for about twenty more kilometers before the passengers went beserk and got off the bus and started to walk off. We were still pretty far away, and I could tell it was more of a statement than an logical option, so I stayed on board. The guys got the motor fired again and we took off. To my amazement, as we passed the group he started mocking them and laughing as we passed them. The driver and the crew were all happy until the bus started surging and came to a stop again. It was funny as hell when the group walked passed heckling the bus guys. After one more pass and laugh, the people got back on and we just settled on the 5km crawl. Finally, after some heated calls, a group of mechanics met us about 30kms from Lusaka. They got the bus started and we were off, but this time only making for about 10kms. By now the sun had fallen and the darkness came. I was even in a kind of bummed state. Another bus company had passed us earlier and offered rides for $20K, but I was set on sticking this one out. It was when the 10am bus showed up that I gave up all hope and jumped on the companies other bus and made it into town. The whole ride ended up taking 18 hours. Grueling.

At the bus station it wasn’t much better as I learned that there was no usual cheap guest house bordering the station and the cheapest place was going to be $120,000K. That wasn’t going to do and so against all the peoples advice, I strode off to the local backpackers which was about a half an hour away. I didn’t get mugged or anything, but the water had been shut off and there was no water to take a shower. That almost made me have a breakdown as on the bus I actually got to feel what 50 degree Celsius felt like. That is around 128F. I stunk and there was no way that I would be able to sleep, so I found a sink that worked and I had a pseudo sponge bath. With that, my exhausting day came to an end with only a major breakdown and a slight personal one.



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